“And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As ’twixt a miser and his wealth is found.”
— William Shakespeare, Sonnet 75
Fair Youth illustrates Shakespeare’s sonnets in a modern light, through the format of an illustrated graphic novel. The sonnets narrate the tale of two young men falling in love in today’s New York City.
Out of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, 126 of them are addressed to a man, known as the ‘Fair Youth.’ Many of these sonnets are filled with intimate language that cherishes the man’s beauty; the most well known of which begins, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” Scholars have historically doubted whether or not the nature of Shakespeare’s relationship with the man was romantic, dismissing the notion that love was possible between two men during that time. This attitude has been passed down through the US public education system, where gay themes in Shakespeare’s works are continually dismissed, even today, in an era when gay love is becoming more widely accepted. When I was introduced to the sonnets as a teen, I recognized those sentiments immediately. Understanding that these emotions and these relationships existed centuries before me made me feel less alone in my struggle with my own sexuality.
It is my hope that by acknowledging Shakespeare’s sonnets as a expression of gay love I can help LGBT young people feel more connected to themselves and to their history.